Today we empathise with the plight of millions of refugees across the world, the majority of whom reside in conditions of destitution in the developing world. We also take this opportunity to remember that the asylum procedures and plight of refugees in our own country are far from perfect.
As Sophie Magennis of UNHCR argues in her opinion piece in the Irish Times today, Ireland must introduce a single decision-making procedure for asylum applicants. This will go a long way to reduce the currently intolerable delays and hardship experienced by applicants.
Ireland is unique across Europe for having a two step administrative procedure to the determination of claims for protection. Firstly the asylum application is determined, and only after this is determined, can an application for subsidiary protection be made and decided upon. Such a two stage process creates unacceptable delays for vulnerable applicants. Asylum seekers have to reside in ‘direct provision’ accommodation for up to three or four years while their applications are being considered. It also creates a considerable expense for the State since applicants are forbidden from seeking employment until their applications are decided and therefore rely on very minimal financial support from the State while they wait.
We have clients who have waited upwards of six years to have their claims finally determined. Several of these are from counties such as Somalia, where there is widespread conflict and a pressing need for the applicant to be able to live in safety and security. Such delays should not be tolerated. They create unnecessary hardship for the applicants and wasteful expense to the State. A ‘single procedure’, as advocated for by UNHCR and the IrishRefugee Council , would go a long way to resolve matters and ensure that the decision-making process is more streamlined, efficient and humane.